Reflections on Black History Month – The Black History Museum
Published Thursday, March 14, 2019
During the month of February, many staff members from across the school district had the opportunity to visit numerous schools and community organizations that held events in honor and celebration of Black History Month.
Several of these celebrations have been posted on school websites and the diversity webpage. Individuals who were in attendance at these events shared their enthusiasm and appreciation as they observed student performances and listened to students share what they had learned about the contributions of historical African-American figures to the history of South Carolina and the United States of America.
One of the most engaging events celebrating Black Month in the district was held at Goose Creek Elementary School on February 28. Appropriately titled, The Black History Museum, Ms. Isis Spann’s kindergarten class explored the roles of historical African American figures and shared what they had learned with many guests and classes that visited their classroom, or museum as it came to be known on that particular day. With the help of their parents, Ms. Spann, and her teaching assistant, Muriel Easter, students learned their scripts and created the attire they wore while representing their historical figures.
Ms. Spann did what great teachers do when developing the content and learning outcomes for this activity by considering her students’ many interests and their love of fine arts. Students were assigned figures like Debbie Allen (choreographer, director, and dancer), Lena Horne (singer, dancer, and civil rights activist), Jacob Lawrence (painter, storyteller and interpreter), and Duke Ellington (composer, pianist and leader of a jazz orchestra). Other famous African Americans represented by students during the museum tour included former President Barak Obama, educators Ida B. Wells and Septima Clark, poet Maya Angelou and Stephen Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina. Students also shared information about other African-American historical figures as they took on their museum roles and discussed their contributions to American History.
“All students were able to see themselves in the historical figures they portrayed,” said Ms. Spann. “My students who love art were able to learn about famous artists, and my students who love music were able to learn about famous musicians. My young African American students were able to see images and positive portrayals of people who look like them.” Ms. Spann explained that as a young African American teacher, she had not learned about the contributions and influences of many African Americans until she attended a historically black college. She firmly believes that it benefits students to learn at an early age that people from different backgrounds should be celebrated and that many of them have invented and created things that make our lives easier.
For Ms. Spann, the highlight of the Black History Museum and one of the things she said touched her heart the most was hearing a fifth grade student ask his teacher if his class could put on a Black History Museum in their classroom. He said, “These small kids did such a good job. If they can memorize their lines, I know we can. We should do something like this in our class next week.”
Ms. Spann said she was so touched to see students being proud of one another and being passionate about what they saw to the point that it made them want to try it in their classroom.
Frederick Douglass (February 1818 – February 1895), a great orator and writer who led the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York once said, “A little learning, indeed, may be a dangerous thing, but the want of learning is a calamity to any people.” Just like those who observed the Black History Museum that was put on by Ms. Spann’s kindergarten class at Goose Creek Elementary, Mr. Douglass would be proud to know the children of Berkeley County School District are not only eager to learn, but eager to share what they learn with others.
*Note: This article is the first in a series that will highlight some of the programs and events that were held across the school district in honor of Black History Month (February 2019).
The Office of Diversity will also continue to highlight staff members, events, and activities that celebrate and promote diversity, multiculturalism, and inclusion in BCSD schools and surrounding communities.
Office of Diversity staff members:
Dr. Glenda Levine, Chief Diversity Officer
Vicki Shirar, Administrative Assistant